With a HANS device on the shelf behind me, a collection of trophies sporting the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series emblem within arms reach, and two very different stock cars to bear my name above the driver’s side window in 2017, I feel I’m qualified to talk about the disaster that was DMR’s NASCAR Heat Evolution for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, as well as the upcoming 2017 Roster Update that will soon launch on the appropriate online marketplaces for $9.99 USD. Regardless of whether you enjoy the sport of stock car racing or simply love to jump head first into each comments section just to pick fights with stereotypical inbred redneck NASCAR fans, it’s not cool when a video game company makes such absurdly poor decisions that result in customers receiving a product drastically inferior to what they could purchase over a decade ago.
After years spent suffering through no less than five officially licensed NASCAR shovelware titles from a European company known as Eutechnyx – who were rumored to have been treating the titles as a complete joke and openly mocking the subject matter during development – Monster Games, the team heralded by NASCAR fans across North America as the masterminds behind the 2002 cult classic, NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona, re-acquired the license to America’s largest auto racing series for a nostalgia trip of sorts. Tasked with re-igniting some of the passion that saw NASCAR titles of the early 2000’s shoot to the top of the charts with both stellar critical ratings and sales numbers, DMR and Monster Games promised that with the help of Penske Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, NASCAR fans would have a compelling product to call their own in September of 2016.
The end result was a complete and utter disaster, which you can read about in our full review of NASCAR Heat Evolution from last fall. Plagued by performance issues on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the title, which despite being locked at 30 frames-per-second would routinely dip into the mid-teen’s during frantic periods of on-track activity, Heat Evolution was clearly a rush job in every sense of the word. As someone who owns all previous NASCAR Heat titles released by Monster Games, and can also fire them up at a moments notice thanks to a backwards compatible PlayStation 3 sitting at my feet, beyond the ridiculously slow artificial intelligence and crude career mode liveries that appear to have been designed in five minutes by someone’s teenage nephew trying out Photoshop for the first time, it appeared as if Monster Games merely injected new car models and high fidelity tracks onto a base game yanked straight from the year 2000, without changing anything at all under the hood despite advertising a somewhat authentic 2016 NASCAR experience. The cars exhibited basic performance attributes such as top speed, overall grip, and setup adjustments consistent with those of a Winston Cup car circa 2000 found in the very first NASCAR Heat, while the overall sound quality was unanimously panned for being identical to the first game in the series, released for Windows 98 operating systems.
It was like if Image Space Incorporated were to snatch away the rights to Formula One from the almighty Codemasters and release F1 Challenge 2014 – 2016 after months of anticipation, but upon booting up the application, fans discovered Nico Rosberg’s 2016 Mercedes only had seven gears and drove inconspicuously like Michael Schumacher’s 2002 Ferrari.
Oh, and it used the same sound effects, too.
While the online netcode was surprisingly competent, Heat Evolution failed to include flag rules or even support for custom setups in online racing, meaning wheel users could not race online against each other, as steering lock was considered part of the car’s setup, and by default was configured for gamepad users. DMR and Monster Games then hastily recruited iRacing YouTube personality Jeff Favignano to demonstrate the game to a broader audience, who spent most of his livestreams dedicated to the game calling those with valid complaints “haters” who “just wanted to ruin other people’s fun.”
DMR and Monster Games believed the best way to address the situation was to push out almost $75 CDN worth of downloadable content – most of it being additional liveries and alternate audio packs for your in-car crew chief that do nothing to improve the very lackluster on-track product Heat Evolution offered loyal NASCAR fans, who had already sat through five years of shovelware from an European company who didn’t give a shit.
Heat Evolution has been seen as a gigantic mess by loyal NASCAR fans who have religiously purchased anything bearing the NASCAR logo, though on the game’s official subreddit – as well as within select social media outlets – there are still some who believe the title has been a step in the right direction, continuing to call other NASCAR fans “haters for daring to question why DMR and Monster Games pushed out such an incomprehensibly bad product despite their critically acclaimed NASCAR titles .
These individuals might be re-thinking their stance after today’s announcement. For an additional $9.99 USD, Monster Games have revealed the 2017 Season Update for NASCAR Heat Evolution. The gentlemen at Game Informer note you will not be able to use the new cars online against your friends, meaning there’s barely any incentive to purchase this DLC in the first place, as most Heat Evolution owners agree the AI is atrocious. There will also be no additional single player challenge scenarios to take part in. There are no plans to insert rule changes that will split each race into segments, as NASCAR will be doing in 2017 for all points-scoring events. And the drastic shake up of the points system NASCAR and Monster revealed only a few short weeks ago? Nope, nothing. All of the changes NASCAR has introduced for the 2017 season and would obviously be welcome in some sort of paid 2017 season update for the software, are instead completely absent, save for the liveries themselves.
It’s yet another piece of downloadable content for a modern video game that desperately still needs to get the fundamentals correct, and that’s appalling with just how much Heat Evolution got wrong on launch day, and still remains unattended to by Monster Games. Yes, some of you reading PRC may hate NASCAR, and that’s okay, it certainly isn’t for everyone, and I’ve indeed turned off a few races prematurely because the guys in Daytona Beach calling the shots seriously need to figure out if they want a legitimate auto racing championship, or are merely trying to create a circle track version of Vince McMahon’s WWE.
However, at the end of the day, this is a racing game that shipped in a very poor state for $60, and rather than address all of the problems that bored modders have almost entirely fixed with the original NASCAR Heat, DMR and Monster Games have given their customers a giant middle finger and have resorted to churning out paid livery packs en mass, while cuckolded middle-aged men trained to feel excitement over the removal of a chastity belt act like we should just be happy we got
to sniff our mistresses toes any game at all.
The whole thing is just embarrassing for NASCAR, as NBC Sports embarked on a very heavy advertisement campaign for Heat Evolution in the weeks leading up to its release, only for NASCAR fans to be subjected to a very incomplete and disappointing product that happily regurgitated software elements from when Bill Clinton was the leader of the free world.